Every once and a while, a team's stars align ... even when the team doesn't have any stars.
Yes, the stars align and a basketball team is locked in from Man No.1 all the way down the roster, and Minute No. 1 all the way through 48. Saturday night was exactly that for the Dallas Mavericks, who dismantled a D-Wade-less Chicago Bulls team by a score of 107-82. Wade may have been absent from the Bulls lineup (just as Dirk Nowitzki was absent from Dallas'), but given the way the Mavs were shooting the rock, I’m not sure Wade could have made a difference.
“We didn’t get down early in the game,” said Harrison Barnes.
“We just finished the game out,” said Wesley Matthews.
And that's a winning alignment.
Chicago, which was facing the second night of a back-to-back after a tightly-contested win over Cleveland on Friday, could never really catch its balance here, as the Bulls shot 45 percent from the floor, but just 3-13 from beyond the arc. Chicago also turned the ball over a whopping 20 times, doubling the Mavs' team total of 10.
Jimmy Butler got his however, scoring 26 points to go along with nine rebounds on 8-18 shooting, but received very little in the way of help from his teammates. Robin Lopez was the next highest Bulls scorer with 15 points, while noted Human Hemorrhoid Rajon Rondo scored just two points, with two assists and five turnovers in yet another return to the American Airlines Center.
Dallas, meanwhile, clad in its blue "Skyline'' unis, was firing on all cylinders, shooting 46 percent from the floor and 41-percent from three in the wire-to-wire victory. The big story here for Dallas was the exceptional team play, as well as the effort and impact that the younger guys had on the game.
Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith both contributed career highs in scoring, with 17 points and 11 points respectively. Powell also added eight rebounds on his 63-percent shooting effort. Both guys were outstanding on both ends of the floor making hustle plays, chasing down rebounds, and playing exception defense.
The young guns weren’t the only ones to show out for Dallas on Saturday night however. Wes Matthews tied his season-high 26 points, shooting 7-11 from three, and 9-17 from the field overall. Deron Williams scored just nine points, but contributed a season-high 15 dimes as well. Harrison Barnes also contributed his usual 20-plus point performance, while Andrew Bogut had eight points and 11 boards.
The Mavs, who have been one of the poorest rebounding teams in the NBA this year (they currently rank dead last in the league), were even on the boards with Chicago. Chicago came into Saturday’s game ranked second in the NBA in rebounds, with 48.9 per game, as well as second in rebound differential at plus-5.6. That makes the Mavs' effort on the glass especially impressive, considering Salah Mejri played all of three minutes, and Dwight Powell was stuck playing a lot of time at center throughout the game.
“I just tried to be aggressive and do what I can,” Powell said. “Bring energy, be a defensive presence, be a spark plug for these guys and just go hard to the glass and just play my role offensively and try to get guys open and set hard screens rolling and take advantage of my opportunities.”
(Powell is a good candidate for "The Dirkie,'' but YOU get to vote for Player of the Game. Do so here!)
With this win, the Mavs move to 4-15 on the season, moving half a game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers for the worst record in the NBA. In other words, for the fans of Team Tank, the goal to be pretty bad still looks pretty good. (And the Dirk announcement helps all of that. Details forthcoming.)
The Mavericks will hit the floor again on Monday when they welcome the Hornets to the American Airlines Center for the final matchup of the season between the two teams. Dallas will look to string together back-to-back wins for the first time this year, after letting one get away from them in Charlotte last Thursday.
It’s just about finishing,'' Matthews said, but really, it's about starting, finishing and the aligning of stars ... even when you're a team that's a bit short on those.